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Questions Answered by Richard Sternberg
1 Answer | Asked in Probate for Virginia on
Q: How soon can one take over a property that was willed to them?

father left me lifetime rights to a property in his will, but he was married & step mother just passed Jan 27 this year , I was not notified of her death , & have not been contacted or told anything , online property GIS says it willed , step brother was left in charge of over seeing things

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Apr 5, 2021

It sounds like you need a lawyer to review the deed and the will. In Virginia law, title to real estate often passes immediately on death.

1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: Jointly own land with brother he passed do I become sole owner?

Dad passed no wife my brother and I jointly inherited his 5 acres he had no will when I was 19 and he was 16. I got married at 20 he got married as well he passed in car accident do I become sole owner?

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Apr 4, 2021

The answer depends on the title on the land, but I doubt that you are using the term “jointly” correctly. If you were in title as joint tenants with right of survivorship (JTWROS), often called “joint tenants,” then you came into title alone (at least in Virginia) upon his demise. But, if... Read more »

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning, Family Law and Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: Can you stay at the house of a relative if they don't want you to? Isn't that illegal?
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Mar 29, 2021

Maybe. I need more information. Is the person staying a spouse? Is it a dependent child? Even if there is no duty of support, criminal law only becomes involved if there is a crime, such as breaking and entering or trespass, so calling the tenancy illegal stretches the common meaning of illegality.... Read more »

1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: Can I withhold security deposit as penalty for early lease termination?

My tenants are diplomats. They were scheduled to move in April 1st and stay for a few years. They signed lease, paid 1st months rent and deposit. They informed me that they are being recalled to their country and can only stay one month. I may not be able to enforce the lease due to immunity... Read more »

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Mar 18, 2021

You may also be able to enforce the lease, though you cannot do it the normal way. I cannot help you if the tenant works for the European Union Delegation to the United States, since I represent them in real estate, but it can be done correctly. You may also account to the diplomat in the normal... Read more »

2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate for Maryland on
Q: Can I submit a claim for hospice caregiving services rendered by me against my mother's estate in probate

if my siblings authorize and agree to it?

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Mar 11, 2021

If all interested parties agree that you should be paid, you should be able to work it out as either a claim or a partial renunciation. This is a matter to be discussed with the personal representative or the lawyer.

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3 Answers | Asked in Real Estate Law and Landlord - Tenant for Virginia on
Q: Person was evicted from my home but he has given all of his property to his girlfriend living with me. What can I do?

This man was just evicted from my home but he left all of his belongings with his girlfriend who still lives as my house. She states I can't get rid of it though because it now belongs to her. These belongings now take up 3 of my rooms and I can't take it anymore. Please help!

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Mar 8, 2021

Get a lawyer, and get her evicted ... assuming she isn't within her leasehold rights.

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1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: in a bank foreclosed property sale does the bank have to provide a property survey

does the bank have to provide a survey of a property under Va law

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Mar 6, 2021

To whom? Why? How will it be used? If you are the foreclosed party, you lost your rights to the property at the foreclosure. If you are the bidder, foreclosure sales are usually "as is" with all risks to the bidder. With all the extra foreclosures soon to be on the market, banks may find... Read more »

2 Answers | Asked in Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: Can it be argued that even if 2 people are on the deed of a house, the one who pays the mortgage is entitled to more?

This would involve a married couple

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Mar 3, 2021

First, if the mortgage was paid during the marriage, and you were both living there, it's not at all clear that either of you paid more of the mortgage. The mortgage was paid by the marriage. Who gets the house and what the contributions were is a matter in equity for equitable distribution.... Read more »

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2 Answers | Asked in Land Use & Zoning and Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: Are my grandmothers nieces and nephews entitled to land that was owned by my great grandmother but never deeded ?

My grandmother had a mobile home on property that my great grandmother purchased. My great grandmother passed without a will but my grandmother has since paid the taxes on the property up to date. My grandmother had 7 siblings and only 4 are left which are all on board with a quit to claim deed in... Read more »

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 25, 2021

It doesn't matter who paid the taxes. Everyone in the line of succession has rights to the land, and, after a couple generations, it is an expensive mess to resolve. Those are really fun cases for a real estate lawyer, and my favorite was one I traced all the way back to before the Civil War... Read more »

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1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Virginia on
Q: Is it illegal for a non executor of a will to prevent an executor from doing his or her job?
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 14, 2021

Every state in which I practice gives executors, administrators, and personal representatives powers to accomplish their objectives. If you don't know what those powers are or how to use them, you need to retain counsel. The estate can pay for that legal advice, so it isn't coming out of... Read more »

2 Answers | Asked in Real Estate Law for Maryland on
Q: If I am unmarried and own a house (on title and mortgage) with with my ex-boyfriend am I entitled to half the equity?

There was no agreement in writing when we bought the home on who pays what. He is keeping the home and wants me to sign off.

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 11, 2021

In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, a partnership arises at law, and the presumption is that losses are divided equally and gains follow losses. You need an appraisal and representation.

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3 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Virginia on
Q: How does the law apply when someone dies and a executor is named, then one of the heirs dies before the estate is

settled, what happens with the deceased heirs portion of the estate?

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 10, 2021

In Virginia, it may definitely matter if the personal representative is an executor or an administrator, because the executor is appointed by a will, while the administrator (unless a administrator c.t.a.) administers an intestate estate. State law presumes that a post-deceased heir in intestate... Read more »

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1 Answer | Asked in Consumer Law, Contracts, Real Estate Law and Civil Rights for Maryland on
Q: Questions about state v. federal antidiscrimination laws in homeowner's associations, contracts

I need lawyers to review several related but different issues

Review an implied written contract between owner and Homeowner’s association for compensation when the HOA is incorrect.

Review complaints for ADA and FHA (housing laws) against an HOA, and help prosecute in Court.... Read more »

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 10, 2021

The terms of service for Justia prohibit lawyers from soliciting business here. The web site is for general information and access to justice. I've often written, however, on how to find a lawyer. I’ve written this same answer several times on Quora, and I don’t have enough time to rewrite... Read more »

1 Answer | Asked in Contracts, Copyright, Divorce and Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: In order for an attorney to pass the bar exam, is it safe to say they need to know a little bit of everything?
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 7, 2021

Preparation for the Bar exam does not involve knowing a little bit of everything. It involves knowing a lot of some things, and it is exceptionally wise to find out which things from a very expensive preparation course that requires intense concentration and memorization of huge amount of state law... Read more »

1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law, Construction Law and Land Use & Zoning for Maryland on
Q: do I HAVE to agree to a free, new well drilled for me (as required by co) so a company can build next door?

I like things the way they are, and can afford to pay for a new well myself should I ever need it.

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 6, 2021

I know of no way to generalize to give you decent advice without reviewing the survey, running a title search for easements, and understanding exactly what the developer wants and needs. Generally, however, you do not need to agree with anything on your land unless your neighbor has an easement to... Read more »

2 Answers | Asked in Land Use & Zoning and Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: In Virginia, can an owner of several lots develop a recorded easement that crosses over multiple the lots he owns?

I currently have a situation where a single person owned several lots and the single owner of the lots developed an easement over all lots that he owned for access in lieu of the approved unconstructed access road.

To my understanding, easements give you the right to do something on... Read more »

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 5, 2021

You need a decent title search and survey to evaluate these facts, but if you are asking whether a property owner can create recorded easements on his property before selling it, that is exactly what every developer does. You can't create an easement on someone else's property.

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1 Answer | Asked in Land Use & Zoning and Real Estate Law for Maryland on
Q: (Is It A Hate Crime) If The Owner Breaks Into The Land That Is By Adverse Possession. And And Changes The Locks.

Can I File Criminal And Civil Charges Against The Owner Of The Land/Building I Adverse Possess. I Changed All The Locks And Put A New Chain And Lock On The Gate. But The Owner Keeps Breaking In And Changing The Locks. That Is A Hate Crime Based On (Law!) ? And .... ....

Laws & Legal... Read more »

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 4, 2021

You have got to be kidding, right? First, a hate crime involves "race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or national origin," and you mentioned none of the above. Second, if you are breaking and entering on the property of another, it is you who is: "damag[ing] the real... Read more »

2 Answers | Asked in Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: If a spouse dies, can the husband or wife sell the home and collect all the proceeds if both names are on the deed?
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Feb 4, 2021

This sometimes gets complicated if the titling was either confusing or a bit ancient, but, basically, if the home was purchased during the marriage, unless expressly titled otherwise, it is entireties property, and, in Virginia, it passes upon death outside of probate. The titling "John Q.... Read more »

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1 Answer | Asked in Consumer Law, Estate Planning and Real Estate Law for Virginia on
Q: I have a check from my fathers IRA. He had passed away back in October. The company Meryl Lynch issued the check out to

So the check with the bank name that is now closed under my father and my name. it does state "F/B/O fathers name IRA and acct#****. but the bank won't even accept the check and create an estate account. This is the second check that was issued from them and they cant get it right.

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Jan 28, 2021

I don't know whether there is enough money involved to make it worthwhile, but I think a simple one-hour consult would straighten things out. It sounds to me like the brokerage hasn't explained that the funds are not part of the probate estate, so they don't belong in an estate... Read more »

3 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Maryland on
Q: I am in the probate process currently for my father's estate in Baltimore county. The house my parents resided in

Only had his name on it. His name solely on the mortgage, but home owners insurance both names. He had credit card debt for less than 5 grand. My mom still lives in the home and we are trying to secure it for her. If we pay the credit card debt will this help or hinder the process. We just want the... Read more »

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg answered on Jan 27, 2021

If the souse was purchased during the marriage, you can file a corrective deed by presenting the marriage certificate and the death certificate of the title holder and preparing the deed. That's sometimes helpful in keeping the title clean. If she was not married at the time of purchase, the... Read more »

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